Legal aid in care proceedings

If social services are accusing you of physically harming your child, you will likely be eligible for legal aid. Legal aid can be very confusing but we hope to shed some light on what might be available to you.

Care Proceedings 

Once care proceedings are issued, if you are a respondent in those proceedings and you have parental responsibility, you are entitled to non-means assessed legal aid.  This means that regardless of your income – rich or poor – you are eligible.  Further, this legal aid is non-merits assessed which means that your prospects of success are not considered (your case could be strong or could be hopeless, you will still be eligible).  In short, legal aid is automatic.

Transferring Your Legal Aid to Another Solicitor 

If you already have a solicitor and legal aid in place, but you are not happy with their representation of you, you may be able to transfer your legal aid.  It is entirely up to you who you instruct; an application can be made to the Legal Aid Agency to transfer your legal aid from one solicitor to another.  The process can be relatively quick and straightforward.  It is important that you have confidence in the legal team representing you and that you are happy with how your case is being managed.    Allegations of non-accidental injury can be complicated both medically and legally so a solicitor with proper experience of this specialist work is vital.  Please get in touch if you want to discuss us taking over your representation and whether your legal aid could be transferred to us.

PLO or Pre-Proceedings

If the local authority provide you with a ‘letter before proceedings’, sometimes called a PLO letter or pre-proceedings letter, as a parent with parental responsibility you are entitled to a form of legal aid called Legal Help Level 2.  This is a low form of funding which permits a solicitor to advise you and engage in correspondence and negotiations with the local authority.  It also allows a solicitor to attend the pre-proceedings meeting.

Intervenor or Party Without Parental Responsibility 

If you are a respondent without parental responsibility (such as a grandparent) or intervenor into care proceedings (such as a boyfriend), your legal aid is not automatic like it would be for a parent.  Instead, your legal aid will be subject to a means and merits assessment.  This means that the Legal Aid Agency will consider your income and your prospects of success. Legal aid is therefore not guaranteed.  If legal aid is granted, it will be subject to review so if your circumstances change (whether that be financially or your prospects of success) your legal aid could be withdrawn.  We can assess whether you may be eligible or not. 

Appeal or Discharge of a Care Order

Most applications outside of the main care proceedings are means and merits tested.  This means that the Legal Aid Agency will consider your income and your prospects of success.  Legal aid for applications like these can be very difficult to obtain.